Weekend review–wildfires and some Darwin attitude

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but fire season has started early in Southern California. High temperatures combined with Santa Ana wind conditions fueled multiple wildfires this weekend. The Springs Fire in Ventura County has burned over 28,000 acres, damaging 15 homes and five commercial buildings.

Fortunately no homes were completely destroyed and there are no reported serious injuries. There is a cooling trend with possible light rain, and full containment is predicted for Monday. Good news.

It is likely to be a rough summer for firefighters. I’ve previously mentioned the memorial plaque at our favorite camping spot remembering the five firefighters killed defending a home in a wind-driven, arson-caused fire on October 26, 2006.

Engine 57But firefighters aren’t the only workers on the fire lines.

My father worked for more than thirty-five years as a lineman/patrolman with Southern California Edison, the primary electricity supply company for much of Southern California.

Dad would be called out during the worst of the wildfires to monitor and make decisions assessing the danger to high-voltage transmission lines. This would place him directly within the fire lines, risking physical safety.

It occurred to me today that although I was always very concerned when he was away, I didn’t really understand what he did during the fire. I understood repair, but what about before containment?

So I asked. I think I understood at least in the simplest of terms.

Obviously wood poles can burn, but lines carried by steel towers are also vulnerable to heat from fires. Dense smoke from wildfires can “trip” a circuit and outages can present a variety of problems.

Dad monitored the transmission lines, predicting and assessing the danger and communicating with the firefighters to minimize not just potential power outages to huge swaths of homes served in the area, but also monitoring the level of danger to the firefighters themselves.

Smoke in the air can become a conductor of electricity resulting in arcing between lines on a circuit or between a line and the ground. Firefighters’ safety can be at stake.

From the time I was very young I understood the danger dad was in, probably even more greatly magnified because he was often away from home for days at a time.

And we still talk about the time he huddled alongside firefighters as the fire jumped over them crouching near the fire engine.  I’m sure out of consideration for his family’s fears there are many other stories Dad never brought home.

I hope sharing this personal story sheds a little light on some of the lives and occupations of people who work in support of the firefighters in fire conditions. And I hope the dangers won’t be too severe this coming summer.

But the weekend wasn’t all about wildfires.

We had our moments of humor.

Darwin always amuses us.

We have been experimenting with putting up a barrier, creating just a little confinement when we aren’t able to keep a closer eye on him.  We couldn’t find him the other day. He somehow managed to wedge himself behind the air conditioning compressor. He can get into a corner, but he can’t back up. So for safety’s sake…

Darwin at little fence

It’s just a little fence!

We did all we could to make him happy. Just look! We even gave him an umbrella to shade his Saturday treat–romaine with a little powdered calcium. You’d think he’d be grateful–but NO!

Darwin in the shade

After a while we gave him back his freedom.

He showed us!

He helped himself to a mini-meal of cactus and succulents, unearthing a few more as he lumbered through the garden.

I think Pinky may have given him a little pep talk and told him to show a little gratitude.

He finally resumed his better behavior, had a little munch of grass, but with a slight pout he put himself to bed.

And I’m sure I heard him humming, “Oh give me land, lots of land under starry skies above–don’t fence me in.”

Be safe, one and all. And have a good week.

43 thoughts on “Weekend review–wildfires and some Darwin attitude

  1. We’ve heard about the fires here – hope this doesn’t mean that you’re in for another bad year. Hope you get some rain, and that the wind drops.

    • We have had quite a bit of rain today, Cathy. Perfect timing. I have really enjoyed the change! I hope the fire season isn’t too bad. I think the reason we’ve been so focused on them is because it’s so much earlier than other years. One thing we can’t control is the weather, right? Whew!

  2. I thought about you when I heard about the fires; hope it rains. Your dad’s profession requires courage and I admire anyone who risks their lives fighting fires. Darwin always manages to escape and go on his adventures. LOL.

    • Thank you for thinking of me, Marie. We did have some lovely rain, and as I get ready for bed it is raining again. I so rarely get to hear that lovely sound, it’s going to be nice to hear it tonight. :-)

  3. I hope the rains come in. We are hearing about the fires. I think being so far removed from them ‘we’ aren’t really aware of everything that is threatened. Or all of the professions that go in to fires to help protect. I pray for their safety.

    • Thank you for your kind comment, Colleen. We did have some lovely rain today! Perfect timing, for sure. I think firefighters are amazingly courageous and skilled, and I doubt very many people have reason to know much about the science of fires. If I hadn’t had my dad’s experience I would never know more. It was nice to be able to share a little bit about the cooperation between the fire professionals and the utility workers. I’m sure there are many more industries and occupations affected and we don’t know about them either! ox

  4. We, too, have been monitoring the fires near you via national news, hoping for some rain, praying for all those in harm’s way. Thank you, Debra, for sharing about your dad’s work as a lineman. We don’t often think of all the supporting men and women who put their lives in danger during these times of crisis. It is good to have them illuminated here through your father’s story. There are so many unsung heroes in times of crisis that we never hear about.
    Good to see Darwin out and about, enjoying the sunshine, up to a bit of mischief. That is quite a nice looking new fence.
    Here’s to a good week, and rain.

    • We had some lovely rain today, Penny. I didn’t hear anyone complaining, that’s for certain. We almost never have any rain in May, so this was just heaven sent, I believe. I was really thinking about how many people would have no idea that the firefighters need to work in cooperation with the utility companies in quite the way my dad described to me. One thing for sure is that fires come every season just like other regions experience tornados or hurricanes. I am going to go to bed very soon and listen to the rain! I don’t get to do that very often. :-)

  5. After all the storms back east, it’s now your turn for disasters. I will send my positive energy your way. I always have a healthy respect for fire fighters because it’s not something I would ever want to do. Your turtle does have attitude! Gotta love him!

    • That’s right, Kate. It’s our turn. The fires are a natural part of our ecology and wouldn’t be as worrisome if people didn’t keep pushing the boundaries of their neighborhoods further and further out into open land. But the firefighters are wonderfully skilled. I admire them, too…I have a girlfriend who joined a volunteer fire department not that many years ago. I was amazed…NOT ME! :-)

  6. I never knew there was so much to fighting fire, Debra. Your fire season is like our hurricane season. Always on the lookout. I will keep everyone in my thoughts and prayers.

    If Darwin loses weight, will his shell change? He has such a funny personality.

    • You’re right about the fires and hurricanes. Every region has it’s own concern. I was reminded this weekend that the firefighters go to school to learn “fire science.” There is so much to it the rest of us don’t need to understand, but it is always interesting to think about how many different agencies must work cooperatively. Darwin shouldn’t actually lose weight, but just needs less protein. His little body inside the shell is supposed to be getting stronger to support the shell growth, which is why we’re adding calcium. So I think the idea is that he needs the proper nutrients, but doesn’t need a lot of calories. The fact he’s now eating grass means he is at least adjusting. We have lots of that, and he can have all he wants. :-)

  7. Glad that wildfires didn’t consume your entire focus this weekend . . . Darwin is such a treat.

    Here’s hoping that the fire season isn’t awful.

    • I wasn’t even going to talk about the fire at all, Nancy, simply because I think it’s just going to be a long hot summer, and this is just the prelude! But I had really been thinking about my dad’s history, and somehow that made me more interested in sharing. One of these times I’m going to try to capture some video of Darwin. That may be next learning curve. :-)

    • I think it’s going to be a long, hot summer, but fires are just a part of the ecology here. I simply worry about those called to work on the fire lines. But it would be wonderful if it ended up being a mild summer. We’ll have to see. oxo

  8. That’s terrible about those poor firemen. I’ve heard the heat has arrived early in LA. Your father certainly had a dangerous career. My father’s cousin married a man and they had two children. When the 2nd child was only 6 wks old he was called out one night during a shocking storm to check the wires somewhere. He was electrocuted. So sad. It’s good to see Darwin sourcing his own food and having a lovely wander in the sun xx

    • The story of your father’s cousin and the loss of her husband to electrocution is just terrible, Charlie. Through the years my dad did tell us of a couple of accidents that ended very badly. It is dangerous work. When my children were young and at school one of the dads was also electrocuted working on power lines. I think that’s part of what got me thinking over the weekend watching the fires, and just remembering how we used to worry about my dad. Darwin didn’t seem at all concerned about either the weather or the fires, did he? He really does have quite a life. LOL!

  9. Oh Darwin! I just love him. And I can’t get over how much he moves about. He’s quite the active little guy. And thank you for describing some of the dangers of fighting fires. I had no idea smoke could conduct electricity. Wow!

    • Hi Kristy! I’m always eager to share a little bit of Darwin. He has fans. :-) He really does get around quite a bit, and now the big question is how we’re going to take vacation this summer and not worry about him. Sometimes I think a dog would have been easier. Ha! We had some unanticipated rain today, and they were so happy to know that it would probably take care of the last of the fires. They were pretty much knocked own yesterday. I had to have my dad really explain the conductivity to me. I think there is a lot about our power companies we don’t understand, and in some ways, I’d rather not know it all. Good to hear from you my friend. :-)

  10. THe fires have been in the news often here, Debra, and the effects of the rain noted, as well. I feel for those homeowners using garden hoses in last ditch attempts to halt the fire’s progress. So heartbreaking! I’m sure your Dad experienced far more than he ever let on during those crises. Bless him for that.
    Oh, that Darwin! He is one determined little guy! Heaven only knows how long he’d been eyeing that succulent and when he finally decided it was time, there was no stopping him. Better be careful. No telling what he’s set his eyes on now.

    • Thank you for taking the time to acknowledge my dad, John. I think like most of us, as children we really don’t know what our parents are experiencing and the stress in their lives. I think my mother must have been very frightened when he was gone on the fires, but she held it together enough neither my brother nor I had too many concerns. It wasn’t until much, much later that I really put it all together and realized the danger he was in. And Darwin is becoming a little bit of a concern as he’s getting larger and stronger. I don’t worry when we’re around, but I’m thinking we need a tortoise-sitter for the times we go out of town. I don’t know how to board a tortoise…he’s more effort than a dog. LOL!

  11. We lived in Southern CAlifornia when we had our turltle, Gus, also. No fence AND he walked away one day. good to have the fence. Hummm I wonder if he’ll figure out how to get around it over it under it. He seems to have a mind of his own. Yes, I think we are into a hot dry summer too.

    • We have a little box tortoise, too, Carla. He was someone’s pet. He wandered into our yard probably a good ten years ago and we’ve had him ever since. On the rare occasion he’s “broken loose” he can disappear for days. They are such nomadic creatures, I guess! :-)

  12. The recent Camarillo fires were a little too close for comfort. Ever think of having a race between the rabbit and turtle? I’d but my money on the tortoise by a hare :)

  13. Darwin is such a character, Debra, i do enjoy your posts about him.
    The fires: such a ferocious force of nature. I get so cross with youngsters who play with it here. All the best and stay safe as you enter this season.

    • We enjoyed the drizzle! LOL! At one point it rained hard for about ten minutes and we practically danced. THe rest of country probably cannot imagine, but we Californians really do know what’s at stake!

  14. I think about Southern California wildfires, especially since our older son lived for a time in San Diego (in Scripps Ranch, which has had its share of wildfire damage), and our youngest son and other family members live there now. Hopefully, the fire season will be a short one. Thank you for liking my post.

  15. I really appreciated learning about your father’s work. I had no idea that people like him had to go out and asses the fire danger. Sobering to think of all those people who put themselves in danger for our safety yet we never get a chance to thank them. Please do express my thanks to your father. And your Mother. Imagine how anxious she was all those nights he spent watching the fires.

    Darwin’s a great character. You’re very tolerant to allow him to eat your garden!

    We’ve also had a lot of rain since Sunday night. We had the heaviest downpour ever on Monday night. Perhaps we’ll get some wildflowers now.

    • You know, Rosie. I hadn’t thought about it, but you’re right! It isn’t too late for the wildflowers. Wouldn’t that be great? Thank you for your kind words regarding my dad. I do wonder if they may have more automated sensors for measuring the danger to high voltage lines in a fire, but back in his day, and he retired in the late ’80s, he still had to be on the scene. I was glad to share about that and to give him a little public pat on the back! :-)

  16. You and your area were much in my thoughts when i saw the reports of the California wildfires on British news bulletins, Debra. I’m glad they turned out not to be as damaging as first feared, but it certainly doesn’t look promising to have such big fires so early in the season. I have the deepest respect and admiration for those who work in the emergency and utility services and can well imagine that your dad could have told you far more stories than the ones you remember, but chose not to.

    Poor Darwin – fancy trying to stop him roaming across his bit of land. :-)

    • It is so nice to hear that I came to mind when you heard about the California fires, Perpetua. It is so true for me also, that when I hear of something happening in other countries or across the U.S. I immediately flash to my blogging friends!

      The fires covered a lot of acreage, but could have been much worse. I was glad to share about my dad’s work. I wonder if today they use more computerized censoring or other ways to measure danger, but in his day that certainly didn’t exist.

      I know what you mean about Darwin. I’m not sure what we are going to do! A dog would be easier I think. Hahaha!

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